About Ken Ohtake
Tokyo, Japan | Guitar
To many people, the charm of Ken Ohtake’s music lies in its “difficulty in being categorized.” Jazz, folk, rock, blues, pop…elements of which are all found in Ken’s work - meld to create its own qualities and sound. Ken’s music is inspired by guitar, but it is not “guitar music.” He dismantles the musical scale and reorganizes it, using his imagination to reinterpret new guitar possibilities. Visual artist Wei Tzu, in listening to Ken Ohtake’s performance, has described it as, "Clean and pure. Purely in that every note is beautiful."
The musician Lin Sheng-Hsiang once described his long-term partner such: "He knows how to dodge existing lines of music, looking for sounds that have not been played – stacked harmonies, conflicts, climaxes and quietude." Ken has said that he feels the most important thing is "communication", which may explain how this guitarist from Tokyo has been free to explore the boundaries of many music genres and collaborate deeply with artists around the world. Ken, who followed and studied with Okinawan folk music master Takashi Hirayasu for many years, has said, "Jazz taught me about many flexible techniques in music, but in Okinawan folk music, I not only learned about rhythm but, more importantly, about the vitality of folk music." Moreover, this vitality connects musicians at the edges of their music, from Tokyo jazz to Okinawan folk music, and then to Taiwan’s new Hakka folk music from the Meinung foothills. Following Lin Sheng-Hsiang’s gradual development into a strong and unique Taiwan music scene, Ken has existed as a hidden light in this scene. Why a “hidden light”? Because on stage he is aware of the position and measure of a musician, and that in the limited space of music he sways infinitely but never exceeds. His dedicated, sincere, free and flexible ability to improvise is memorable.
From Japan to Taiwan, Ken Ohtake’s creative works are a kind of hybrid variety from the margins and multicultural in nature. His “rootlessness” is precisely the source of freeness in his music. Whether it is in the impact of strong musical traditions or solo improvisations, the sum of these experiences has precipitated a new musical texture that is entirely unique to Ken Ohtake.